Ukraine urges allies to speed up support for winter of war

Destroyed power lines are seen outside Kherson, Ukraine, on Nov 26, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BUCHAREST – Ukraine urged Nato members on Tuesday to speed up weapons deliveries and help restore its shattered power grid, as Western allies vowed to bolster support to aid Kyiv through winter in the face of Russia’s attacks.

Moscow has unleashed waves of strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, as its troops are pushed back on the ground, plunging millions of people into darkness.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for supplies of weapons, especially advanced air defence systems, to come “faster, faster, faster”, as he joined a two-day meeting of Nato foreign ministers in the Romanian capital Bucharest.

“When we have transformers and generators, we can restore our system, our energy grid, and provide people with decent living conditions,” Mr Kuleba said. “When we have air defence systems, we will be able to protect this infrastructure from the next Russian missile strikes.”

“In a nutshell, Patriots and transformers is what Ukraine needs the most”, he said, referring to the US-made Patriot missile defence system.

The appeal came as Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of targeting infrastructure in a bid to use the winter as “a weapon of war” against Ukraine.

Mr Stoltenberg said Nato allies have pledged more support for Ukraine to fix its infrastructure and would keep on sending arms and air defences to help it better protect itself.

He said there was an “ongoing discussion” on supplying the Patriot systems that Washington and others have so far refused to give to Kyiv.

“Nato is not a party to the war. But we will continue to support Ukraine. For as long as it takes, we will not back down,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

He said he expects Russia to carry out more attacks on Ukraine’s grid as Russian forces suffer defeats on the ground and warned Europe should “be prepared for more refugees”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced a package worth US$53 million (S$73 million) “to support acquisition of critical electricity grid equipment” by Kyiv.

A senior US official said the assistance would not be the last and pointed out that the Biden administration has budgeted US$1.1 billion for energy spending in Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova.

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‘Keep calm, give tanks’

Allies have given arms worth billions of dollars to Ukraine, but Kyiv is pleading for more air defence, tanks and longer-range missiles to push Russian forces back.

But there are growing concerns that weapon stores in some Nato countries are running low as stockpiles have been diverted to Ukraine.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said his request to fellow Nato ministers was simple: “Keep calm and give tanks”.

Germany, which currently chairs the G-7, convened a meeting on the sidelines of the Nato gathering to discuss the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the participants looked to “better understand and prioritise the most urgent needs” ahead of an international conference in Paris on Dec 13.

Boxes of relief supplies being prepared to be shipped to Ukraine at the logistics center of the German Red Cross (DRK) in Schoenefeld, Germany, on Nov, 29 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Separately, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and said Germany would dispatch 350 generators and provide financial assistance to repair energy infrastructure worth 56 million euros (S$79 million).

Mr Zelensky said they had discussed cooperation, both bilateral and in international institutions.

“The priorities are clear – protection against missile terror, energy restoration, food security,” Mr Zelensky said in his daily video address late on Tuesday, noting that “the situation at the front is difficult”.

“Despite extremely big Russian losses, the occupiers are still trying to advance in the Donetsk region, gain a foothold in the Luhansk region, move in the Kharkiv region, they are planning something in the south,” he said. “But we are holding out.” AFP

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